It’s a GAMEDAY presented by MassMutual as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms conclude their weekend series and three-game road trip with an afternoon rematch at the Cleveland Monsters.
Lehigh Valley (18-19-10) is two points back of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division while also holding two games in hand. This is game 48 of the season. There are 29 games remaining including today.
Charlie Gerard scored in his return to his hometown area but the Phantoms were unable to otherwise break through againt Cam Johnson in a 2-1 overtime los at Cleveland on Friday night. Trey Fix-Wolansky scored the game-winner just 17 seconds into overtime while sliding across the low slot on his belly. He elevated the puck past the blocker of Kirill Ustimenko who made 18 saves on 20 shots.
Kirill Ustimenko picked up his first AHL win of the season and also his first in a little over two years with his 30-save gem on Wednesday in a 3-2 shootout win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. “Usti” also had his first AHL win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in February, 2020 when he racked up 38 saves for the Phantoms in a 5-3 victory at the Penguins.
Ustimenko entered in relief of Felix Sandstrom on Saturday night and has played in four consecutive games since his return to the Lehigh Valley roster going 1-1-2, 1.80, .933 with 97 saves on 104 shots.
Forward Alexis D’Aoust has signed another PTO with the Phantoms after two forwards went down with injuries on Wednesday. D’Aoust had just been released from his previous PTO after playing three games with Lehigh Valley.
Goalie Pat Nagle has returned from Beijing and rejoins the Phantoms from the USA Olympic Team. He has gone 7-0-3 with the Phantoms this season.
The Monsters are 3-1-1 since ending a nine-game losing skid on February 12. Cleveland (16-21-9) is stilll in last place in the North Division and is surrendering 3.5 goals per game which is second-worst in the conference only to Rochester. Leading scorer Brendan Gaunce (16-12-28) has gone up to Columbus. 21-year-old seventh-rounder Tyler Angle from the Windsor Spitfires has scored 7-18-25 including a winner at Utica to end their winless streak. Phantoms alum J-F Berube was pressed into duty in Columbus and picked up his first NHL win since 2018 in a 7-3 victory vs. Buffalo.
The Phantoms defeated Cleveland 4-2 at PPL Center on December 11 in the only matchup of the season so far. Adam Clendening broke a 2-2 tie in the third period against his former team. Lehigh Valley is 1-0-1 against the Monsters this season.
News and Notes:
– Lehigh Valley has gone 15-8-5 in its last 28 games after a beginning that saw just three wins in the first 19 games at 3-11-5.
– KILLING IT! The Phantoms’ penalty kill rates fifth in the AHL and second in the conference at 84.0%. The Phantoms have killed off 10 straight opposing power plays and are at an even stronger 88.0 % (66/75) in their last 25 games since December 18
– The Phantoms have played 47 games and have 29 remaining with barely more than two months to go in the 2021-2 regular season.
– Hayden Hodgson leads the Phantoms with 15 goals and has three goals in the last five games as well as 6 goals in the last 10 games and 9 goals in the last 16 games.
– The Phantoms are tied for the second-most overtime games in the AHL with 14. Cleveland has the most with 16. The Phantoms have gone to overtime in three of their last four games.
Saturday, February 26 at Cleveland Monsters (1:00)
Wednesday, March 2 vs. Providence Bruins (7:05)
Friday, March 4 vs. Charlotte Checkers (7:05) – 25th Anniversary Celebration
Saturday, March 5 vs. Charlotte Checkers (7:05) – 25th Anniversary Celebration
Tuesday, March 8 at Hershey Bears (7:00)
Friday, March 11 vs. Laval Rocket (7:05)
Saturday, March 12 vs. Hartford Wolf Pack (7:05)
Sunday, March 13 at Hershey Bears (5:00)
Broadcast coverage of all Phantoms games, home and away, is available on the Phantoms 365 app and on 1470-WSAN. Fans can watch on AHLTV.com and can listen on their Smart Speakers at: “Play Phantoms Radio 24/7.” Join Voice of the Phantoms, Bob Rotruck, for all the action!